Proposed cuts to state funding in Governor Murphy’s FY2022 State Budget, if enacted, would violate a federal requirement for “Maintenance of Equity” (MOEq) in the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ARP ESSER), an Education Law Center analysis has found. To comply with the requirement, and not risk jeopardizing $2.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief to New Jersey school districts, ELC is urging the Legislature to include in the State Budget the additional state funding needed to maintain equity in the high need districts impacted by the proposed cuts.
“If the Legislature and Governor sign off on this state aid cut, not only will high need districts have less funding for the 2021-22 school year, but New Jersey risks losing billions in federal funds urgently needed to address the impacts of the pandemic on students, their families, and communities across the state,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director.
In enacting the ARP ESSER Fund, Congress conditioned New Jersey’s receipt of $2.5 billion in federal emergency relief funds on the State Department of Education’s (NJDOE) compliance with a Maintenance of Equity (MOEq) requirement. Specifically, the NJDOE is prohibited from reducing per-pupil state funding to “high-need” districts below the FY2021 level, and from reducing per pupil state funding to “highest poverty” districts below the FY2019 level.
In his proposed FY2022 State budget, Governor Phil Murphy is proposing to cut state funding to numerous districts under Senate Bill 2 (S2), a 2018 amendment to the state’s funding formula. ELC estimates that 71 districts classified as “high need” under the MOEq would have their state funding reduced below FY2021 levels by a cumulative $30 million if the Governor’s proposed budget is enacted. ELC also estimates that in 10 districts classified as “highest poverty” under the MOEq, the proposed cuts would reduce state funding below the FY2019 level, requiring an additional $143 million to maintain equity in those districts.
“It is crucial the final State Budget comply with the federal maintenance of equity requirements for high need and highest poverty districts,” said Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director. “Given the overwhelming need for teachers, support staff and other resources in these districts, any cut in school funding is ill advised this year. We must ensure the budget does not jeopardize the State’s receipt of billions of federal COVID-19 relief funds for our public schools.”
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